Taking Over A New Senior Role – The First 100 Days

When taking over a role that puts you in charge of a business it’s critical you use the first 100 days wisely. Much of the success you have in the first 2-3 years in the role will be determined by how effectively you use these 100 days. It’s surprising how many people think this early period is one for reflection and review rather than for action and change. As Napoleon observed when appointing a new general, you can do nothing to them in the immediate days after they are appointed, they can do what they will, because to criticise them would make the appointment look a mistake. Senior managers/directors should use this time accordingly.


Below we’ve put together a checklist developed from our senior executive coaching work. Doing these things more or less in parallel fashion will use those 100 days to real purpose.

Engage With The People

  • Informally meet all staff you are responsible for face to face ASAP. This can be onerous and arduous if you cover a lot of territory but it needs to be done. Town hall style is fine if a lot of people are involved.
  • Communicate a high level ‘impressions’ based overview of what your leadership will mean and what people can expect to see from you in the first few months. Communicate a date 120 days after you have started where you will talk about what you have learned and what your first year plans are going to include. This will inject a sense of pace and purpose into your approach. Stick to the timetable.
  • Conduct a 1-2-1 interview with all direct reports. Get them to present their KPIs and plans for the relevant period.
  • Meet all second line reports 1-2-1. Informal discussion to get their views establishes another line of communication without undermining their bosses (your direct reports).
  • Hold a team building workshop with your direct reports team. Focus on developing/reviewing/inventing a Purpose Framework of Vision, Values and Strategic Goals.
  • Start to form a view around the shape and composition of your direct reports team.
  • Set up a regular meeting process with your boss. Drive the agenda, make it your own. Spend time getting to know them and what pushes their buttons.
  • Network like mad across the organisation and in key adjacencies.
  • Begin gathering your key team; you need people you can really trust and relay on. If you are going to bring in people from a previous organisation try to balance their appointments with some incumbent promotions.
  • Key early relationships if you are at MD/CEO level will need to be with your Chairman, FD/CFO and HRD.
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Think About Your Personal Leadership Style

  • Decide what kind of leader you want (and don’t want) to be.
  • Correlate that to the immediate needs of the business. Does it require transformation, remedial action, a steady hand, shaking up???
  • Be prepared to make clear statements about your management/leadership style, what you won’t tolerate and what you really like to see in others. Clarity here will send out clear signals of intent and begin the important early process of expectation management.
  • If relevant, make sure people you have managed previously recognise that things need to change; old relationships cannot necessarily carry on as before.
  • Change things. Symbolic change can be hugely significant in setting out a new style, a new way of doing things. Never say “I’m not going to change things until I’ve had a good look at things”. Do not begin with a strategic review, this creates a period of stasis and anxiety at the same time

Getting Your Hands On The Things That Matter

  • Get your arms around and understanding of the key data sets with the three requirements of
    – Full disclosure
    – Absolutely correct
    – Available in a timely fashion
  • These data sets will be:
    – Financial, including; cash, profit and loss and the balance sheet. Make sure you understand the balance sheet as well as the FD. Go through the overhead line by line to understand what the business spends its money on.
    – Operational, including all key functional metrics especially those relating to customers, margins, input and output costs. Test the effectiveness of the Board/Management Report. Improve/change as required.
    – Compliance, all issues to do with risk, regulation, health and safety, HR policies etc.
  • In these early weeks is more critical to understand problems/issues than to blame people for poor data. Openness is more important than quality (for now).
  • Planned decisions. Capture all decisions that are in the pipeline. Understand those that are legally binding, those that are committed, those that reversible.
  • Reputational Risk. Make sure all currently known issues are known to you. Be very clear with your DRs that for you, surprise (not bad news) is the worst sin of all, and will be very negatively received.

Engaging With Stakeholders

  • Map all key stakeholder groups.
  • Develop clear views around stakeholder risks, where power resides and think about where you need to quickly build relationship equity.
  • Develop engagement plans for individuals and groups.

Getting Your Strategic Point Of View Organised

  • Become the expert in understanding the current strategy and why it exists (or not) in the form it does.
  • Ramp your learning on understanding the market context, competitive pressures and major change drivers ASAP.
  • Get out and meet key customers, use it as an opportunity to evaluate the Sales Director.
  • Keep testing the organisation against the critical capability – Do we have the people, processes and proposition to GROW this business? Make this a standing agenda item.
  • If you need additional resource/focus to make this happen – do it.
  • Use the emerging Purpose Framework development to inform the major strategic themes.
  • To begin with remain as open and neutral as possible, opinions and decisions are a next stage.
  • Look for quick, small wins, improving the figures is a short cut to increasing your credibility, licence to operate. Do not become a ‘jam tomorrow’ leader.
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Activate Real Performance Management

  • Understand all key performance drivers. Make sure accountabilities are clear and the reporting line from top to bottom is transparent and understood.
  • Validate current practice and improve where necessary around the right things being focused on by the right people in the right way at the right time
  • Review performance management system, develop as required (tactical). In the first year make a more strategic appraisal and to its effectiveness.
  • Focus on accountability, responsibility and ownership. Evaluate how expectations are set and met.
  • Review and reset consequences model (positive and negative).

Remember, you’re going back to the organisation after 120 days. This is as much to show what you have been doing as what you are going to do more/less/differently.